PIERRE -- The South Dakota High School Activities Association sought to make wrestling a more fan-friendly sport and the solution was to bring back the state dual tournament for the first time since 2004.
The tournament originally took place from 2001-2004, will run in conjunction with the individual state tournament from Feb. 27-29 at the Premier Center in Sioux Falls is designed to replicate a basketball or volleyball-type environment during weeknight dual meets during the regular season.
The deadline for teams to make a decision on participating in the tournament is Dec. 31 and the SDHSAA anticipates potential two-thirds of the Class A teams will join the fray and one-third to half of the Class B teams will compete.
“It’s much easier for a casual fan to attend a dual,” SDHSAA Assistant Executive Director John Krogstrand said. “The excitement you can create around a dual -- much like a Friday night football game -- is singular event that has a finite time. You just don’t get that casual fan and that level of school A versus school B.
“The whole point of the dual is to return that Tuesday, Thursday, Friday night rivalry aspect to increase participation, growth and to retain the kids that are out for the sport,” Krogstrand continued.
Teams must compete in eight dual meets during the regular season and the top-eight teams will qualify for the state tournament based on seed points. Class A teams must fill 10 of 14 weight classes, while Class B teams are required to fill eight weight classes.
While many of the same kids competing in dual meet will also be in the individual state tournament, some may not qualify individually, but could compete in the state dual tournament. It also allows kids who may be knocked out of the individual tournament early on Friday to continue competing in duals later in the day.
The SDHSAA has changed the website to color-code schedules like it does for volleyball, differentiating between duals and tournaments, and has already seen a change in schedules to indicate support duals.
“Especially among the Class A schools, the majority of the events are duals,” Krogstrand said. “It’s where we were some time ago, but hasn’t been for quite some time. … Knowing that all kids might have a role on that team, even if they might not compete in the individual championship, they could be a key component for their team.”
Dual tournament format draws concerns
Many coaches are in favor of the dual tournament, but some have expressed concern about the layout.
South Dakota will follow states like Minnesota and North Dakota in have individual quarterfinals for the individual tournament at 3 p.m. on Thursday and the dual quarterfinals to follow. Semifinal and consolation matches for the individual tournament take place Friday morning, while semifinals, third-place matches and dual championships are to be held Friday evening.
Some have expressed concerns about wrestling the same individual consecutively or piling up matches in a short period of time.
The SDHSAA eliminated fifth and seventh-place matches in the dual tournament, which existed in the initial run of the tournament to avoid teams removing wrestlers still in the hunt for an individual state title.
Some have proposed having the tournament on a separate weekend to reflect states such as Nebraska and Wisconsin, but they are also willing to see how the first tournament plays out.
“The biggest thing is we do have the duals back and a lot of coaches wanted the duals,” Kimball/White Lake/Platte-Geddes coach Thomas Konechne said. “I was pushing to have them on a separate weekend so we don’t run into any of those issues. I know this format is successful in some of the other states, but we need to find the right format for South Dakota. Once we do that, it will be a successful event.”